7 mins, 20 secs read time
The world is—thankfully—becoming a more equal place. People of both genders are more educated than previous generations, new immigrants have the same chances to start successful businesses as citizens born in that country, people with disabilities are more visible and given more opportunities to succeed on their own merits. We are becoming a more inclusive society.
So why are only 14.3% of management and board level executives in Silicon Valley women?
A study by the Lehman Brothers Centre for Women in Business found that gender-balanced teams are more creative, and more likely to think outside the box and share knowledge. A similar study by the Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (INSEE) found that teams with women were better at staying on schedule and had lower project costs.
Over 20% of engineering graduates are women, so where have they gone? Unfortunately nearly 40% of women who earn engineering degrees quit the profession or never enter the field. For those who leave, the most common reasons are poor workplace environments and mistreatment by male colleagues and managers. So how do you fight this statistic and attract the top women in tech to your company?
1. Build a recruitment brand.
This one really applies to everyone, not just women. Think of a company you would like to work for. What do you know about their work environment, work-life balance, and benefits (both financial and non-financial)? Where did you hear about these factors? You may think it is from a third party, but in reality the company probably has a great inbound recruitment brand.
We have all heard about the workplace benefits of Google—on-site laundry and massages, scooters to get around campus, flexible working hours in many roles. You might have read about these perks in the news or on a blog, they may have been discussed on the radio, or you may have heard about them from a friend. This is all part of their employer branding strategy. Make your company be known, not just for the products or services you supply, but for your company culture and the initiatives you support. Use your marketing strategy to improve your recruitment strategy by increasing your SEO, and publishing great content online. Start conversations about advancements in your industry, and about the greatest parts of getting involved.
2. Start a mentorship program for women.
Ask women in senior positions within your company to mentor new recruits. Use your branding and social media to promote this so that prospective female employees know what to look for when joining your company. Set an agenda that is specific to their job, but also promote that this will be helpful throughout their entire career.
For example, a mentor who introduces her mentee to other projects related to work also introduces her to a new network of people within those projects. New skills learned from a mentor can be transferrable skills in a woman’s future career. It is amazing what successful women can teach each other in the workplace. You could create an event to launch this program; my favorite event idea would be a day dedicated to Ada Lovelace, the woman who wrote the first piece of computer programming in 1842. Or you could dedicate your mentorship program to Ada Lovelace and Mary Somerville, the Scottish mathematician who mentored her throughout her life.
3. Create advancement opportunities for women in your company.
When you invest in the advancement of women in tech, you are investing in the creativity and progress of your company and product. Unfortunately, women are less likely than men to put themselves forward for roles that they are not completely qualified for.
As part of your new mentorship program you could create quarterly events where female leaders in the industry present to your workforce. Set a theme for each session, but leave the format open to the presenter—roundtable discussions, workshops, traditional presentations— each presenter will have a strongest format. Brainstorming with women from outside the company will refresh your team members’ ideas, and encourage them to put those ideas forward the next time you are seeking input.
Send your female employees to trade shows and conferences. Try investing in one event a year targeted specifically at women in tech. For all external events, choose an equal number of men and women to send out on the road. Your audience will grow as both men and women will appeal to different demographics and strengthen your presence in your industry. Having women represent your company at these events also strengthens your workplace brand, which creates a cycle of equal opportunities at your company.
Promote women at an equal rate to men, not out of obligation, but because you hire women that you can see progressing in the future. Reward great work with a step up the ladder. Creating an even playing field is the single largest thing you can do as an employer to let women succeed. When hiring any employee, including women, have a clearly defined career path in mind. You need to fill one position right now, but what role could this woman play in the future of your company? When hiring, or after each promotion, set goals for the next step on this path. This transparency will help your employees to climb the ladder themselves.
4. Create equal benefits for women and men.
Women don’t want to be seen as special cases. Creating a well-rounded maternity program is a great start, but incorporating a “parental leave” program levels the playing ground. For decades women have been left behind because it was assumed that they would take more time off than men. In reality when equal family leave is offered, women and men average the same amount of leave taken. Men get more time to spend with their families, and women don’t feel pressured to leave their jobs in response to family leave.
Ensuring equal pay opportunities means that employee morale is higher, and more and more women decide to return to work. Whether you are just starting out, or creating a new approach, set a clearly defined pay structure. Research the industry and location averages using tools like Payscale and Glassdoor.
If you want to go above this for competitiveness, or below it for budget reasons, make the changes across the board. Examine your current pay structure. Are your female employees paid less than their male colleagues? At your next annual review use the raises to even things out.
Let people know that you are offering these equal benefits—sponsor a survey that backs up your approach, then share it with the world. Equal pay can be the largest inbound factor in any recruitment strategy. In today’s workforce, equal pay is often more important than the exact figure on a salary.
5. Create an inclusive culture—in your company and in your hiring process.
“Bro culture”—the modern equivalent of “the boys’ club”—isn’t always obvious, but it might be entrenched in your company without you realizing it. This can be subtle in practice, but immense in effect. Having an office party on a weeknight, with beer and darts sounds like a lot of fun, but it could be excluding a large demographic in your office. If deals and ideas are struck at parties like these, employees with families, or who don’t drink or don’t like to play darts, get left out and left behind.
Replacing these events with more inclusive events can have a big impact on your office culture. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever have happy hours, but try having a company picnic on a Saturday, for example. Bring along some beers, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. Tell employees that families are welcome, although you might want to let them know if you will be serving alcohol. Set up some team-building activities that can include families as well as teams. This helps to create a community at your company, and not just a group of coworkers. Your team members will be more likely to support each other in the workplace in the future.
And while these events may only be open to current employees and their families, be sure that someone snaps a few photos. Share these stories on social media or your company blog. Show the world some of the ways you support and include all employees beyond their day-to-day jobs.
Making these changes will take time, but you should begin to see some benefits very quickly. If we empower gender equality in the workplace, everyone benefits. Let your company know that you intend to make these changes—and let your recruiters know that you want a more equal and diverse workforce. Start building your recruitment brand today.